One of the original French manufacturers of the Type 20 chronograph is returning with a faithful recreation of their 1950s Type 20 design. Airain was among those supplying French pilots with standard issue flyback chronographs during the ‘50s and ‘60s, alongside the likes of Breguet, Dodane, and Mathey Tissot. The Type 20 followed regulation as set forth by the French Ministry of Defense and the resulting designs have become iconic designs in the lore of vintage military watches ripe for reissue. With this particular Type 20 reissue, we not only get the watch, but the brand that produced it.
Airain was one of a handful of original manufacturers supplying watches to French pilots, and did so under the purview of the brand Dodane. The feature set of the Type 20 was defined by the needs of pilots operating within the analog cockpits of the day, and required the following:
- A black dial with registers at 3 and 6 o’clock with the ability to track up to 30 minutes
- Luminous hands and hours, which needed to be Arabic numerals
- A case diameter of ~38mm and thickness under 14mm
- A chronograph complication with flyback functionality
- A rotating 12 hour bezel
- Accuracy to 8 seconds per day
- A power reserve of at least 35 hours
The Airain Type 20 represented one of the more handsome takes on the above criteria, but the brand itself fell by the wayside in the years following the war. With the revival of Airain’s sister brand Lebois & Co in 2014 by Dutch based Tom van Wijlick, the brand is positioned to return beginning with its most recognizable designs.
The new Type 20 from Airain, which is in pre-order phase, will be a faithful rendition of the original, including meeting each of the criteria listed above. The one compromise listed is to the case diameter, which Airain has shifted to 39.5mm. To manage hitting the impressive spec list, Airain has worked with La Joux-Perret S.A. to provide the movement, the caliber AM1. This is a hand wound, column wheel chronograph with flyback functionality and 55 hours of reserve. No word on accuracy, but the aim is clearly stated to remain within the confines of the original Type 20 specification, so I’d expect it to be within 8 seconds a day.
The Airain Type 20 nails the visual of the original, which is a good thing. It’s well proportioned and highly legible in a nod to the very purpose of these watches in the first place. A hesalite crystal is used to maintain the period correct feel, while the flat, 12 hour bezel runs the perimeter without culling too much attention from the dial.
In addition to the standard black dial, a limited edition Brown variant is being offered for a pre-order price of $2,980. This will be limited to just 134 pieces and really maximizes the old-school charm of the design.
While Airain may not have the brand recognition of Breguet or Mathey Tissot, this is a beautiful rendition of the original Type 20 that does its due best to live up to the impressive standards set forth in the ‘50s. What’s more, it does it all for around $3,000. The pre-order price for the black dial models is $2,920 with orders expected to ship in summer of 2021. This is a lot of watch for that price, regardless of the name on the dial. This one happens to have some history behind it and should set a strong precedent of what’s to come from the brand moving ahead. More from Airain.